Zaya Nurai island Zaya Nurai island TDIC

Abu Dhabi's Islands: a guide

A group of about 200 islands fall under Abu Dhabi territory, here's our guide to best and most beautiful 

Abu Dhabi is often labelled a towering cityscape perched on the edge of a vast desert with the Arabian Gulf thrown in for some seafaring fun, but it is in fact far more than just simply high rises, desert and ocean. The city is made up of over 200 islands, offering a unique taste of Abu Dhabi life. From hedonistic hideaways to the culture-rich and architecturally acclaimed, Abu Dhabi’s islands are the ultimate gateway to the city’s diverse lifestyle.

Lounge in luxury on Nurai Island

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Nurai Island

Just a 10-minute boat ride from Saadiyat Island lies Abu Dhabi’s latest island idyll, Zaya Nurai Island. This boutique resort offers everything and more than you could wish for from a private island escape, whether you stay or simply play for the day. Crystal-clear aqua waters, long stretches of white sandy beaches, design-soaked villas each with their own private infinity pool and butler, cool and serene chill-out zones and sun-drenched terraces, artisan and eco dining and an effortless ‘barefoot chic’ dress code. All that is left to do is sip on cocktails, puff on shisha and take in the sunset. www.zayanuraiisland.com

Related: One week in Abu Dhabi

Maritime history on Dalma Island

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Dalma Island

Its ‘older brother’ Sir Bani Yas Island may be famed for its wildlife reserve and Anantara Desert Resort & Spa, but if it’s history, heritage and traditional Arabian island life you’re after, then Dalma Island awaits. Hidden away 210 kilometres from the mainland, you will need to hop on a ferry from Jebel Dhanna (one and a half hours) or if you prefer, charter a small plane from Abu Dhabi airport (45 minutes) but it is worth the journey as this historic island packs a whole lot of heritage for its size – only nine by six kilometres. Originally a pearl trading hub, the island is full of maritime memories. Visit the museum, take in the ancient mosques, buy freshly-caught fish from the friendly local fishermen at the souq, hike the hills or wander the island shores amongst the old wooden dhow boats. www.dalmaisland.com

Related: Al Maryah Island: Abu Dhabi's new luxury hub

Art & culture on Saadiyat Island

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Saadiyat Island

There may be a few more years to wait for this island’s ‘Big Five’ to open in the famed Saadiyat Cultural District, with the most anticipated being the Guggenheim and the Louvre, but do not let this put you off venturing to this location, already a notable cultural and artistic hub. A wander around the Saadiyat Experience Exhibition at Manarat Al Saadiyat will give you a real taster for what is happening here – past, present and future. For culture connoisseurs who want to scrub up on their local history, Manarat Al Saadiyat also hosts talks in the springs and the auditorium is also host to various classical concerts as part of Abu Classics each year. www.saadiyatculturaldistrict.ae

Related: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Guide

Stay fit on Yas Island

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Yas Island

As a designated A-list playground, Yas Island is home to Abu Dhabi’s Formula One racing circuit, Yas Links Golf Club and Ferrari World, but it is also the place to go in the city if you are a running or cycling buff. Head to Yas Marina circuit on Tuesday evenings for their ‘Training Night’ from 6pm-9pm to do your very own laps of the 5.5-kilometre track. You can also get your ‘chi’ in check with a yoga class, or if walking is more your pace, join the Proactive Nordic Walking course who run sessions every Wednesday at 9am. For watersport enthusiasts, why not try Paddle at Yas, where you can simply hire your own paddle or take a class on the calm waters off the island’s beaches. www.yasisland.ae

Related: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi: a guide

Beach bliss on Belevari Island

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Saayidat Beach

Perhaps the most secret and serene of Abu Dhabi’s islands, Belevari is the ultimate in escapism. This tiny 30 x 15 metre island is so secret that it only surfaces for a few hours every day and its exact location only privy to those certain few in the know, so it is best to hop on board with Belevari Marine who offer regular boat trips to and from the pristine isle. Set sail ahead of low tide, spend two hours soaking up the unadulterated pleasures of pure hedonistic beach bliss, then head back to the mainland feeling reinvigorated and re-energized. www.belevari.com

Related: What to pack for the UAE

1 Nurai Island
2 Dalma Island
3 Saadiyat Island
4 Belevari Island
5 Yas Island